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Joshua 22-24 Listen
1 Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh,
2 And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you:
3 Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God.
4 And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.
5 But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
6 So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away: and they went unto their tents.
7 Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given possession in Bashan: but unto the other half thereof gave Joshua among their brethren on this side Jordan westward. And when Joshua sent them away also unto their tents, then he blessed them,
8 And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.
9 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh chose land east of the Jordan. They had promised Moses to fight with the remaining tribes to secure their land west of the Jordan back in Numbers 32 (see notes). Now that the fighting is over, Joshua releases them from their obligation, and they head home to the east side of Jordan River. So, how long has it been since they've been away from home fighting on behalf of the other tribes? Well, we don't know exactly, but we did get an estimate back in Joshua 14:6-15 (see notes) where we see that the conquest had taken around seven years up to that point.
Incidentally, verse 9 says of these tribes that they, "departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh." The Tabernacle was set up at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1, see notes) and it appears that the Ark of the Covenant remained there during the entire period of the judges until it was captured by the Philistines in I Samuel 4:3-11 (see notes).
It has been suggested that the ark was originally intended to be transported from tribe to tribe throughout Canaan after they moved into their new territorial homes. That theory is strengthened by the fact that Levites were sprinkled throughout the tribes in 48 cities (Joshua 21, see notes). According to the theory, when the ark arrived there on its circuit through the tribes, there would be a contingency of Levites to assist the traveling priests. If that had been the original intent, there is no scriptural indication that this ever took place.
10 And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to.
11 And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.
12 And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them.
13 And the children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest,
14 And with him ten princes, of each chief house a prince throughout all the tribes of Israel; and each one was an head of the house of their fathers among the thousands of Israel.
15 And they came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spake with them, saying,
16 Thus saith the whole congregation of the LORD, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD?
17 Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD,
18 But that ye must turn away this day from following the LORD? and it will be, seeing ye rebel to day against the LORD, that to morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel.
19 Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the LORD, wherein the LORD’S tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the LORD, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the LORD our God.
20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.
21 Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel,
22 The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,)
23 That we have built us an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer thereon burnt offering or meat offering, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the LORD himself require it;
24 And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?
25 For the LORD hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the LORD: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the LORD.
26 Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice:
27 But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the LORD.
28 Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.
29 God forbid that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn this day from following the LORD, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for meat offerings, or for sacrifices, beside the altar of the LORD our God that is before his tabernacle.
30 And when Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation and heads of the thousands of Israel which were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spake, it pleased them.
31 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, This day we perceive that the LORD is AMONG US, BECAUSE YE HAVE NOT COMMITTED THIS TRESPASS AGAINST THE LORD: now ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the LORD.
32 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the princes, returned from the children of Reuben, and from the children of Gad, out of the land of Gilead, unto the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought them word again.
33 And the thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God, and did not intend to go up against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt.
34 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the LORD is God.
Just as they get settled in, they perceive a BIG problem. Those two and one-half tribes on the east side of the Jordan have built a huge replica of the altar to God like the one commanded to be placed on the tabernacle grounds. God hasn't been particularly tolerant of deviant worship in the past. Do you suppose we can just let it go this time or do we engage in a CIVIL WAR with them? After all, they are on the other side of the Jordan. Maybe God will just judge them and not us. NO, NO, NO! The representatives of the ten tribes west of the Jordan, headed up by the son of the High Priest, Phinehas, cross over to the east to get to the bottom of this situation. In verse 17, Phinehas makes reference to the incident back at Peor when a plague swept through Israel and killed 25,000 because of idolatry in Numbers 25:1-18 (see notes). As a matter of fact, it was Phinehas who was credited back then for taking decisive action to put a stop to that idolatry when he ran his javelin through one of those dating couples.
In verse 20, these representatives refer to Joshua 7 (see notes) and their defeat at Ai because of one man's sin, Achan. They feel completely responsible for keeping everyone in all 12 tribes serving the one true God.
GOOD NEWS! It's just a memorial - a testimony to Jehovah (verse 27) - NO intentions of actually making sacrifices there. Satisfied, everybody goes home - NO WAR NECESSARY. Interesting note: In the KJV it says that they "called the altar Ed:" That's an interesting name for an altar! "Ed" is actually an exact transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning "witness." I do wonder why an altar named "Ed" only seems humorous to me. It is very good news to see how conscientious Israel was at this point in time about keeping their worship of Jehovah pure. It's just too bad that they fell away from this resolve in the years to follow.
Joshua to Israel: Do good, prosper; do bad, fall (Joshua 23)
1 And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.
2 And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age:
3 And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you.
4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.
5 And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you.
6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;
7 That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:
8 But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.
9 For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.
10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.
11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.
12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:
13 Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.
14 And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.
15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.
16 When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.
Here he is, a young man when compared to Aaron and Moses at their deaths - only 110 years old according to 24:29 (see below). He's gotta speak to Israel before his death and warn them. Israel's occupation of Canaan is 25 to 30 years behind them now, and the Canaanites still live among them. Joshua emphasizes some points here. First of all, the promised land is rendered from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea (verse 4). That does not include what Gad, Reuben and Manasseh took east of the Jordan. Secondly, the Lord will continue to drive out the Canaanites (Exodus 23:30-see notes, "By little and little...") as long as they serve God and don't get mixed up with those false Gods. Go after those gods, and you will perish - seems simple to me. He commends their faithfulness in verse 8 and points out that God honored that by giving them supernatural abilities in verses 9-10. Notice that Joshua tells them in verses 12-13 that they are not even to intermarry with the non-Israel inhabitants of the land. If they do, God won't continue to drive those heathen folks out.
Joshua has an interesting idiom for death in verse 14 when he says, "And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof." In other words, everyone dies. Notice the solemn warning from Joshua in verse 16, "When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you." How many times did they hear that very warning from Moses? Yet, in the end, that's exactly what led to their final downfall in 586 B.C.
1 And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
3 And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
4 And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.
5 I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.
6 And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea.
7 And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.
8 And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.
9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you:
10 But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.
11 And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.
12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.
13 And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.
Joshua gathers all the people to Shechem. Why ten miles north of Shiloh where the tabernacle was? We're not told, but I'm guessing it's to fulfill the promise made to Joseph a few centuries ago regarding his bones (see below in 24:32). We get another hint from John 4:5 (see notes), "Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph." Joseph was buried here because this is the parcel of land awarded him by Jacob. Perhaps another reason for this meeting place is that Shechem's location (between two mountains) was great for addressing all of Israel; it was the place chosen to issue the blessings and curses in Joshua 8:30-35 (see photo) - acoustics must have been fantastic. There's nothing like reminding people of how they achieved success. Notice the comment he makes about Abraham's ancestors in Joshua 24:2, "And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods." Abraham's relatives were all polytheists. THE LESSON: Jehovah gave you this land because you followed him, the one true God. And...how much better does it get than verse 13, "And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat."
By way of clarification, the KJV word "flood" used in Joshua 24:2 is a reference to the Euphrates River. The Hebrew word is "naw-hawr´" and is usually translated river(s) or stream(s). Ur was Abraham's home town on the other side of the Euphrates.
Verse 12 is curious, "And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow." Those "two kings of the Amorites" are a reference to Sihon and Og over on the east side of the Jordan (Numbers 21, see notes). Who was "the hornet?" Was he some sort of a super hero? Come to think of it, the Israelites certainly did conquer that land with ease back then.
Consider these verses from Exodus 23:20-33 (see notes):
Exodus 23:20 Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
Exodus 23:27 I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.
Exodus 23:28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
It would appear that, in fact, God did send a super hero to assist the Israelites against Sihon and Og, an Angel. And what was the substance of the army used by this "Angel" to precede Israel into the land? Looks like a swarm of hornets to me. Warfare is easy when the hornets are with you instead of against you.
14 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;
17 For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:
18 And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.
19 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
20 If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.
21 And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD.
22 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.
23 Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.
24 And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.
25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.
26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.
27 And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.
28 So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.
29 And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
30 And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathserah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.
31 And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.
32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
33 And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.
As stated in the preceding section, the KJV word "flood" used in Joshua 24:2 and again here in 24:14 is a reference to the Euphrates River. The Hebrew word is "naw-hawr´" and is usually translated river(s) or stream(s). Ur was Abraham's home town on the other side of the Euphrates.
Here are those oft-quoted words from Joshua to Israel in verse 15, "...choose you this day whom ye will serve..." Then Joshua issues a very provocative statement to them in verse 19 when he says, "Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." Whoa! What did he mean by that? I think he's probably addressing human frailty here - that they aren't strong enough to do so without supernatural strength from God. Look at his clear warning in Joshua 24:20, "If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good." From that, it is obvious that these Israelites are being warned of the consequences of not serving Jehovah.
Now notice verse 23, "Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel." Is Joshua implying that the Israelites had, in fact, kept some of those heathen idols they had captured in war?
Joshua decides to memorialize his warnings to Israel with a big rock. He tells them the rock is a witness of their promise to serve God. While Joshua will disappear, the rock will remain as a constant reminder of the promise Israel made. They seemed really motivated to do the right thing that day. And then...Joshua dies at the ripe old age of 110 (also seen in Judges 2:6-9, see notes). Now we have two big ol' rocks as memorials - one east of the Jordan named "Ed" (Joshua 22:34, see above) and now this special "hearing" rock west of the Jordan. Actually, the hearing rock simply meant, "every time you look at the rock, remember your promises." Also note that Aaron's son, Eleazar the High Priest, dies in verse 33.
Incidentally, Israel fulfills a promise made to Joseph several centuries ago here in verse 32, "And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph." Shechem is located within the boundaries of the Tribe of Manasseh, Joseph's descendants. Take a look at these other verses concerning Joseph's bones:
Genesis 50:25 (see notes) And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.
Exodus 13:19 (see notes) And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.
Hebrews 11:22 (see notes) By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
It was important to the Hebrews where their remains were left after death. We see this emphasis upon form and place of burial all through the Old Testament.